I’m sure you all can agree with me that there is an overwhelming amount of information available on anything health and wellness related. I can completely understand not knowing who to trust when you are in search of reputable, useful information that aims to help you lead a healthier lifestyle. While eating healthy and mindfully involves awareness about what you put in your body, nutrition advice should never leave you feeling bad about yourself or too hungry. Stick to advice provided by Registered Dietitians and avoid advice by nutrition enthusiasts (ahem, Dr. Oz). While it’s absolutely wonderful to make nutrition a hobby, trusting people who haven’t been properly educated is risky. Read through the information here and utilize the links to bring you to reputable sources of nutrition guidance.
What does it mean to have healthy habits? Generally, this means putting whole, nutritious foods in your body and exercising regularly (150 minutes/week as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control)! Taking it a step further, let’s think about how you treat yourself. Life is difficult and no one is perfect at it… so don’t beat yourself up over an extra cookie or a week of not working out if that’s what happened. What you can do is think forward and make goals for the following week to get back on track! Read further for more information on and improving healthy habits.
Should I worry about counting calories?
While counting calories have historically been a controllable focus for many people trying to lose weight, try not to let it become an obsession. Evaluating your diet by the quality of whole foods you are eating, with a little less focus on the calories might offer some relief when considering eating habits. A great overall goal is to consume less processed and packaged foods and increase your intake of more whole foods. By doing this, you’re ensuring the quality of your calories and the number of calories (in most cases) at the same time.
Use the link below to read all about whole foods and what they can do for you! Hint hint – it’s written by our very own Healthy Bachelorette, Brittany Jones!
Let me try to put this in perspective in another way. I’ve had many people ask my opinion on what they are eating at any given moment. For example, I recently had someone ask me if whole-wheat gold fish are a healthy snack because there are only 120 calories in the pack. While goldfish are fine here and there, it is not something I would consider healthy. Alternatively, it is a better choice than say, cheese doodles or Oreos, but that does not make it healthy. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to put them on your I’m-never-eating-these-again-list… –but perhaps you have them in moderation, instead of making them a part of your daily diet.
Packaged foods such as Goldfish really do not have any valuable nutrition to them. In this case we would refer to them as empty calories. Foods with empty calories often come in the form of simple carbohydrates, added sugar, saturated fat, and other additives that aren’t doing anyone any favors. Familiar foods that fall into this category include packaged cookies, chips, soda, and candy, to name a few. If you are trying to manage your weight or improve your diet, it is in your best interest to limit these empty calories.
To sum it up, although the pack of Goldfish is just 120 calories, it’s 120 empty calories that will likely leave you unsatisfied and more likely to go grab another snack that might also be more empty calories. Instead, have a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts, or some 100% whole grain crackers and hummus. These are examples of whole foods that have been minimally processed that will offer you dense nutrition. These hearty nutrients will keep you full – and free of empty calories!
Eating Patterns and Behaviors… and Everything in Moderation!
Paying attention to your eating patterns and portion sizes is going to be your best bet for managing your diet. Managing healthy eating patterns was one of the main focus of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Start off slow with what you can handle and make your plan for grocery shopping and meals. Weight loss and behavior change take time so remember your patience and give it time. Sticking to your plan and avoiding fad diets is going to give you the ultimate long-term success. Fad diets like low-carb plans or juice cleanses offer a lot of promise by giving you a set meal plan and rapid weight loss, but our bodies are just not designed for that for long-term success. We need actual food in the form of whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy. While you may lose weight quickly with one of these diets, you are losing mostly muscle and water, and you will be more likely to gain it back once you get off of the diet. Allow yourself the luxury of eating mostly whole, nutritious foods, but also allow yourself the ability to indulge by enjoying all things in moderation.
Lastly, let’s talk a little bit about the concept of mindfulness in relation to eating, otherwise known as Mindful Eating. Mindfulness is a really healthy practice in many ways, but it has proven effects in relation to eating patterns.
Take a look at The Principles of Mindful Eating:
- Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
- Be aware of external triggers to eat, such as stress and emotions.
- Acknowledge food preferences and eating without self-judgement.
- Eat slowly and savor your food using all of the senses.
- Limit distractions such as the TV or computer while eating
Generally speaking, mindful eating encourages everyone to have a positive and healthy relationship with food. Food nourishes us by providing the necessary energy to allow our bodies to function adequately. It also provides enjoyment at the same time. Finding the balance between those two ideals is a good thing to acknowledge and work towards. Learning to appreciate your meal and take the time to enjoy it will ultimately lead you to becoming a more mindful eater.
Consider how you feel when you are about to have a meal. Do you typically feel starving? Or maybe you might not feel hungry at all? What about when you are finished eating, do you ever feel too stuffed? These are feelings that many of us struggle with and luckily, incorporating the concepts of mindful eating can help us manage them.
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